Tag Archives: edtech

12 Tech Resources for Teaching English

Matt Miller (@JMattMiller), author of the Ditch that . . . series wrote in his book Don’t Ditch That Tech (Burgess, 2020), “Technology can super charge learning.” Technology provides active learning, student centered, differentiated opportunities for students to showcase learning and understanding. Before you integrate any technology, consider the goals for the unit, lesson, and individual students. Then think about how technology might integrate to support those goals and provide opportunities to transcend learning.

As we get closer to the start of another school year and many of us do not know what that will look like in the midst of COVID-19 – in person teaching, hybrid models, blended learning, or 100% remote learning. Here are twelve tech resources for teaching English (and other content areas) to super-charge learning whether we are in the classroom or working from a distance.

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Reading Platforms:

Actively Learn – My favorite reading platform by far because of its customizable aspects. Students are able to read digital, print and videos within the platform and answer reading comprehension questions. Standards aligned and tons of free content or you can upload and design your own. Many differentiated aspects to support ENLs. struggling readers and high fliers. Syncs with Google Classroom.

Newsela – Similar to Actively Learn but now is a paid platform with tons of nonfiction articles. Differentiates by changing the lexile scores of reading passages to make information accessible to everyone.

Insert Learning – This Chrome Extension allows you to insert instructional content to any page! Create your own differentiated assignments that are customized to individual students. It’s free!

Edpuzzle – Yes, this is a video platform that allows a teacher to insert a video and include comprehension questions throughout the video to check for understanding. We live in a visually saturated culture and students need to be able to “read close” visual texts.

Creative Communicators:

TeleStory is an App that allows students to create and broadcast your own TV show! Record a music video, teleport to an alien planet, film a high-speed-chase, or perform on a reality TV show. This is a great way for students to get creative in how they showcase their ideas, learning, and knowledge.

Flipgrid is a free platform that Syncs with Google Classroom for students to amplify their voice by sharing and showcasing ideas, reflections, and information verbally.

Storybird is a creative writing platform for students and provides a writing curriculum for teachers.  This paid platform supports Google Classroom and has more than 600 writing challenges and art from around the world to inspire and support students authors.

Buncee is a great tool to create, present, and share multimedia. Teachers can use it for lessons to share content and students can create their own engaging presentations or portfolios.  Nearpod and Peardeck are similar to Buncee for sharing information for classroom presentations or a flipped lessons.

Showcase Learning & Assessment:

I have already mentioned Flipgrid and Buncee which students can utilize to document, communicate, and visualize their learning. Here are a few others that allow students to be creative and show learning and understanding.

Powtoons is a comic creation tool where students can create their own storyboard, comic book, or graphic novel.

Padlet collects responses from students in text or visual format. I have also utilized padlets for book reviews, sharing poetry and reading responses.

StoryMap.KnightLab.com is like Google Lit Trips  where a map is utilized to tell a story. You can tell stories with photographs, works of art, historic maps, or a narrative.

I work in a Google School and I use Google Suite daily. GSuite offers lots of different tools that can help students showcase their learning from Google Jamboards for collaboration and brainstorms, longer writing on Google Docs, presentations in Google Slides or think outside of the box with Google Drawings to create infographics, graphic organizers or illustrations.

 

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5th Annual LIT Conference: Learning with Innovative Technology Conference 2020

Friday, July 10th marks the 5th Annual Learning with Innovative Technology Conference hosted by SUNY Empire State and the Saratoga Springs City School District. The conference website boasts, “This conference is designed for educators of all types and anyone interested in the use of technologies in education. The conference is packed with presentations from educators all over New York State who have something to share in the field. Participants will walk away from the conference with new and fresh ideas to bring back to your school and classroom.”

I will be presenting two sessions in the morning and below are the slide decks to access the information shared throughout my sessions.

Session I:

Session II:

 

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25 Podcast Assignment & Project Ideas

Podcasts are a great tool for learning and to showcase learning. With cloud based podcast platforms like Anchor and Spreaker, creating a podcast is simple and accessible to all. I have curated twenty five different podcast assignment and project ideas for students whether working remotely or in the classroom. Each one can be adapted per grade level and content area taught.

1. Myths Around the World – Mythology is part of the curriculum in elementary school, middle school, and high school when students study ancient cultures. First students can read and listen to creation myths and hero myths from around the world to understand the elements of mythology. Taking examples from Greek, Native American, Indian, and Chinese mythology, students then write their own creation or hero myths. Students create their own mythical characters and write descriptions about their origins. Students can work collaboratively to write and then record their original myths for a class podcast series.

2. What On Earth Science DebatesEarth Science teacher in New York, Deb Davis has her 8th grade students research and prepare opening debate speeches around controversial topics in earth science: fracking, genetically modified foods, Keystone Pipeline, space travel. Students prepare an evidence file collecting valid and reliable research to utilize for their debate. On the day of the debate, students record the entire debate and create a podcast channel for the science debates. Parents and other students can listen to the debates and evaluate them for solid evidence and effective arguments.

3. Let Me Tell You My Story – Based on content area of the class, this podcast requires students to conduct interviews of people about their experiences living during a specific time period (history connection), or career exploration, or stories about community development. 

4. Book Versus The Movie – Which was better, the book or the movie? Students can debate and discuss the qualities of a book turned movie and which they would recommend.

5. RadioLab Style Informative Inquiry – I love the Radiolab Podcast and have written about having students create their own Radiolab style podcast on this blog and in a chapter of Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age. The podcast is organized like an informative essay with three body paragraphs, evidence to support the claims, and enhanced with sound effects and interview clips. Students can have lots of fun discussing  key topics in science or be more light hearted by debating who is the better super hero: Batman or Superman.

6. “Tribe of Mentors” – So I am a podcast junkie, and Tim Ferriss’ is one of my all time favorite podcasters. His podcast series includes interviews with celebrities, athletes, scientists, and more. Have students interview the people who they consider influencers and forward thinkers to share expertise and insight how to live your best self.

7. Create a suspenseful podcast like Lethal Lit to tell a mystery, horror or gothic tale in a series of episodes that lead the listeners through the mystery with red herrings and lots of suspects.

8. Need To Know – What are the things that you need to know before you graduate from high school (or elementary school or middle school). This podcast can be a series of short podcasts about what people should know once they leave school. For example, maybe  balancing finances and how to fold your laundry. Have students brainstorm a list of things that they think are imperative to know to help them navigate their lives beyond school.

9. Personal Narratives and Memoirs are great for podcasting and storytelling. Check out The Moth Radio Hour for examples for storytelling that makes you laugh and cry.

10. Poetry Podcast – Have students write their original poetry and then podcast their work to share with others. Students might also consider podcasting their favorite poems and discuss the elements of the poem that make it memorable.

11. On This Day  – Create a short podcast to introduce important events that happened on the specific day recording the podcast. The podcast can be based on history, scientific findings, or famous feats.

12. Wonderopolis: The PodcastWonderopolis is a fantastic website with daily wonders about our world curated on its website. Students can create their own wonders and then create a podcast to share their wonder findings.

13. Newscast – Students can take their school newspaper to another level with a podcast. Allow students to share movie reviews, news about school, and highlight school related stories on the podcast.

14. Let Me Help You – Students can create a podcast to teach others about technology. Allow students to podcast short and easy to follow “How To . . .  Tech” lessons for older adults. This can be adapted to any content or subject matter. For example, I can really use a math podcast to explain aspects of geometry and algebra.

15. Choose Your Own Adventure – Remember the choose your own adventure books from the 1980s? What if students worked together to create their own stories that listeners were able to select where they want to story to go next. This could be an entire class or grade level project with each student writing and podcasting their “chapter.”

16. In The Know – Students can research all about animals, diseases, or sports and create an encyclopedia podcast that catalogues all about these topics.

17. The Best Recipes – Students can share family recipes on a podcast to create a collection of delicious dishes to share with others.

18. The Best Book I Ever Read Podcast – Here is a way to collect book recommendations and showcase students favorite reads. Students can access the podcast to find out what to read next. Think of it like a podcast for GoodReads in Classroom 2A.

19. Reader’s Theater – Have students create an “old time” Prairie Home Companion show with sound effects and original music.

20. The Story Seeds Podcast is a collaborative podcast among kids and authors. Each episode “captures the magic that happens when kids ages 6-12 meet and collaborate with beloved storytellers who grow original short stories inspired by their story ideas.” Have students create their own story seeds or borrow one from the show and create their own story magic to podcast.

21. Investigative Journalism – The Serial Podcast brought attention to an unsolved murder mystery and also the excellence of a podcast. Have students be their own investigative journalists and go hunting for the truth about local legends or unsolved crimes.

22. Reel vs. Real – Whether you are a Mythbusters fan or not, watching movies and shows online you might question the science of car races, explosions, or the reality of people’s lives in the moves. Have students analyze the films to discern fact from fiction.

23. Making the Invisible Visible – Many times history and characters are one sided and we rarely see or hear about those who are silenced. eclipsed, and ignored. Let’s bring them to the forefront by having students research and create podcasts that are history or literary based and give voice to those who were kept voiceless.

24. You’re Wrong About – This is actually a podcast series now and the idea is genius if you have students create their own podcasts to research and discuss things that adults are wrong about.

25. What this song means to me – For music fans, have students choose their favorite songs and podcast their close reading and analysis of what the song means to them. They might also address the craft moves of the artists and the key elements of the song.

Want More? Check out Building Book Love blog post which highlights many awesome podcasts that you can listen to, share with your students, and inspires more podcast creation ideas.

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#ISTE19 Round Up

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The annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia was an amazing event. After my own presentations I had the opportunity to attend a few panels, playgrounds, and peruse the exhibition hall. Tech Education is vibrant, diverse, and this year, pedagogy at the forefront. ISTE is about utilizing technology to create inclusive spaces to transform learning and help every student and teacher succeed.

Here are some highlights from this year’s conference

“Personalized learning pathways empower students to pursue their passions while encouraging them to take more responsibility for their education.” — NESSC

Education As Choose Your Own Adventure – Choice is key helping students learn, dig deep, and apply their understanding. Offering students options by product, tech tool, and process personalizes learning and allows all students to meet the learning targets. Author and educator Matthew Oberrecker states, “when learning is truly personalized, each student has a voice in the learning process.  Within this framework lies a core vision for 21st century teaching and learning: a symbiotic relationship between pedagogy, technology, and 21st century skills.” Choice and voice are at the forefront of education whether addressing students or teacher education. Choice boards, badges, non-linear classroom experiences, flipped learning are a few ways to differentiate and personalize learning.

 

 

Get App-y – There are so many apps and Chrome Extensions that can help assist our students to be better researchers, writers, and readers. Using a grammar extension like No Red Ink or Grammarly can help our students write more fluid and correctly. Using text to speech extension like Voice Note II can help our struggling readers and writers. Using ad blockers like Mercury Reader can eliminate distractions and leave only text and images for an easy reading of any site. These extensions and apps provide opportunities to support all learners. Assistive Technology Education, Mike Marotta exclaims, “By leveraging the power of this common browser, we can make significant customization to meet the needs of [not only] struggling students [but all our students].”

AR & VR – In my book Personalized Reading I write about augmented reality and virtual reality as an entryway for building background knowledge and expanding world knowledge. Both AR and VR allows you to explore gaming and simulations or virtual environment experiences. Metaverse Augmented Reality, Quiver for Education, Nearpod, CoSpaces and Merge Cube apps like Explorer, Dig, and Mr. Body create immersive experiences. It is not just about providing these experiences, but allowing students and teachers to create and personalize interactive learning. Check out Jen and Brian Cauthers’ resources for all things mixed reality.

Robots – I am so excited for the literacy connections between robots and my ELA class this year. I am actually getting a flock of Finch Robots from Hummingbird Robotics for my classroom in the upcoming school year. There are many robotics companies in the market today but it is the applications and connections to the learning standards that are key. In order to empower our learners as creators, designed, and engineers they will need to learn to code, build, and think outside of the box. Robotics can help us meet these objectives. Robots provide exposure to STEM activities, involving computational thinking and exploring solutions to real-world problems, along with tapping creativity. Sphero, Sphero mini, Ozobot, and Coding Mice are other robots where no coding experience necessary to use these tools.

Digital Citizenship – Richard Culatta, CEO of ISTE, said it best in his passionate plea to #ISTE18 attendees at the opening keynote in Chicago! “Digital citizenship, it turns out, is not a list of ‘don’ts’ but a list of ‘dos’,” Richard Culatta says. “And never has it been more important than it is now.” He returned to this idea in this year’s #ISTE19 since digital citizenship is essential in our world today and must be seamlessly infused it into the instructional day. BrainPOP, Common Sense Education and the Digital Driver’s License provide digital citizenship curriculum to empower students to create their own digital content to show how they’ve internalized the themes and importance of digital citizenship including the opportunity to create their own movies, text- and block-based coding projects, and personalized concept maps.

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Teachers are Busy Bees: #HiveSummit

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#HiveSummit is a free, 14 day virtual educational conference that started on August 1st. Organized by author and Gamification guru, Michael Matera @mrmatera,  the Hive Summit brings some of the best and the brightest minds together to do what bees do best… work hard for something sweet! The objective of this virtual conference is to help teachers jumpstart the school year with successful practices and positive energy. All the Presenter Bees” talk about ways to design learning experiences that promote engagement and student learning.

The nine presenters and their key ideas are posted below. If you are reading this before 8/14/18, register for The Hive Summit to view the videos and learn more.

Rabbi Michael Cohen @TheTechRabbi – Designer Educator, Creativity Instigator, and Director of Innovation

Rabbi Michael Cohen, a keynote presenter at #ISTE18, speaks passionately about design thinking and the need for creativity in the classroom. He was keen to say that creativity needs to be cultivated in the classroom; creativity is not something you have or get. In our world today students need to have the time and space to tinker, make, and create in order to figure things out, explore, and experiment. The Tech Rabbi shared one activity to ignite creative thinking and problem solving in the classroom: 30 Circle Challenge. For the 30 Circle Challenge give students 3 minutes to turn as many circles into recognizable objects as you can. This isn’t about: your artistic ability or filling 30 circles. This activity is about fostering meaningful conversation and a discussion about our awareness of creativity. This is a concrete way to model thinking outside the box.

Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome – Doodler, Teacher, YouTuber

Carrie is awesome and I am not only saying that because she was a contributor in in my book Gamify Literacy. Carrie is a special education teacher and sketch note advocate. In her talk she shares the learning experiences that sketch noting promotes for ALL student learners. Below is a video from Carrie’s youtube channel that introduces sketch noting as a learning tool.

 

Rick Wormeli @rickwormeli2 – Teacher, Author, Education Consultant

“A teacher’s job is to ensure students learn,” so begins Rick Wormeli’s presentation. And there is no where in research or life where someone has said that grading motivates learning. Rick talks about standards based grading and having teachers look closely at their own grading practices. We need to teach what we need students to learn and
create tasks that answer the critical question: “Do you have evidence you’ve mastered the stuff?” Standards based grading is more effective than percentages and extra credit. The key questions to ask are: Have students hit the learning targets or not yet? “How do I get students to learn this…” and Does every student need to demonstrate mastery at the same time? 

Tara Martin @TaraMartinEDU – Curriculum Coordinator, Lead Instructional Coach, Author

This week I finished reading Tara’s new book Be Real: Teaching From the Heart which was honest and insightful about teaching. The reality is that technology can never truly replace teachers because it is a teacher’s compassion, energy, and passions who make them memorable. Tara believes in being REAL:

 

  • R Be Relatable
  • E Expose Vulnerability
  • A Always be approachable
  • L Constantly Learn through real-life experiences

When you bring your realness to the table (and it’s enough), you make the world a better

 place. Tara is all about becoming the best version of yourself. No one else has exactly your talents and your experiences that you draw from. You’re the only “expert” at being you. Everyone has a purpose.

 

Matt Miller @jmattmiller – Teacher, Author, Speaker

It is important to be a maverick teacher– take risks. If you model taking risks (and potentially failing) for your students, you empower them to have a voice and choice. Don’t focus on technology, rather focus more on how it can be used to effectively reshape instruction. How can we leverage technology to make the most out of every class moment? Assemble a toolbox of a wide variety of tools and ask, “What tools do I need to do…” Technology is an opportunity, not a thousand dollar pencil. Think how you can remix apps and utilize technology in ways that are relevant to your students’ learning from global collaboration to rethinking the way you use Google Slides.

 

 

 

Michael Matera @mrmatera – Teacher, Author, Speaker

Most of what I know about gamification, I learned from Michael Matera. “Gamification entails applying the elements of a game, or mechanics, to non-game situations.” It’s a way teachers can overlay a game on top of already well-developed content and instruction. If you’re willing to give gamification a try, start small: gamify a lesson– then a unit– then a course. Use board games, television game shows and video games as models and mentors for building your own games. Gamification is about building on different game elements – many teachers allow the game to unfold as the school year blossoms. Three key things to think about when implementing gamification: Theme, Teams, and Tasks. As Michael states, “Play isn’t a pedagogy, it’s a way of life.” Bring play into your classroom to boost learning and have fun.

 

Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur – Regional Technology Coordinator

Sarah talked about building a professional learning network. This is key for teachers since teaching can be an isolating job. Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer have allowed teachers to connect with like minded people to share, collaborate, connect, and learn from one another. I know personally how twitter has become a game-changer for my teacher and professional learning. There are endless ways to connect with other professionals globally. Authentic connections can change your life trajectory.

Joe Sanfelippo @Joe_Sanfelippo – Superintendent, Speaker, and Author

Joe has amazing positive energy as an administrator that I wish I was around him more to experience his ideas and passion for his school community. Based on his book, Hacking Leadership, Joe talked about the three main components he practices to cultivate a positive school community:

 

  • Be Intentional About Your WHAT & WHY – Share out about the good things that are happening in your school or classroom– there is power in sharing the good intentionally
  • Open Doors – By “sharing the good,” you have the opportunity to change the school narrative and create a culture of sharing instead of a culture of competition
  • Build Staff – Place value on all parties trying things outside of their comfort zones– value on the journey and the growth will reshape school culture. Joe shared that every day he writes 2 positive notes to share. He said that teaching is a thankless job but when someone stops and says thank you it means so much more. Administrators needs to recognize and thank their teachers more often.

 

Dave Burgess @Burgessdave – Author, Speaker, Game Changer

I have to say that I have been a Dave Burgess fan for many years and use his book Teach Like A Pirate with my graduate students as a required reading for Literacy in the Content Areas. I want my students to remember to infuse passion in all of their lessons. Dave promotes doing awesome stuff in your classroom. Teach like a pirate isn’t about choosing one method– it’s about incorporating others’ great ideas into your method. How will you make a first impression with your students? How are you going to get them excited about your content area and school? Be bold and take the best of everything to create a classroom where students cannot wait to return. “We want to educate makers not memorizers.” 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mash Up March: App Smashing for Effective Feedback

When students are writing, Google Docs is a great tool to help brainstorm, draft, edit, and revise their work. I have been thinking about the most effective ways that I can offer effective feedback on their writing throughout the writing process beyond the Comments feature on Google Docs. Here are a few apps to utilize when giving feedback on student writing.

Flipped Lessons with Exemplar Writing – I often share an exemplar essay from a student from the previous year as a model and mentor for student writing. Using the SMARTBoard or Document Camera I am able to show the writing model and talk through the craft moves the student made that make it an exemplar paper. But, I can also make a recording of this and provide students with easy accessibility to the model essay, annotations highlighting the key writing moves, and explanation why the essay an exemplar. Using Google Slides, Google Drawing, and Screencast-O-Matic, I am able to record this lesson and have it available for students to view any time. Additionally, students can respond to the elements of the exemplar they notice, like, and want to model in their own writing with Padlet. Padlet is a collaborative platform or “board” for students to share feedback, answer questions, respond to a prompt, or brainstorm together.

MultiModal Feedback – Google Comments allow teachers to add comments on Google Docs. This is helpful to address specific concerns and highlights on a student’s essay. Additionally, the extension Checkmarks is an easy commenting tool that has popular pre-made or custom comments. Another possibility is to add vocal feedback with extensions like Read & Write or Talk & Comment. Teachers or peer editors can record their comments on these apps and the writer is able to listen to helpful suggestions to make their essay clear and concise.

App Smashing the Entire Writing Process – Using a semantic map tool like Popplet or Bubbl.us can help students in the beginning stages of writing to jot down ideas what they will write about and gather necessary textual evidence. Then, to help students build an outline, they might demonstrate their thinking using Explain Everything or using a voice recording app like Audacity. When students are writing Google Docs is a trustworthy tool. Then, reading aloud their essay to get peer feedback and check for correct grammar and usage, students can read and respond to each other’s writing on Flipgrid. Students can compile all their work on Thinglink posting links to showcase their writing process.

 

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The Future of Education

I was recently asked by Matthew Lynch, Editor in Chief of  The Edvocate & The Tech Edvocate, “What are your thoughts on the future of education?” This is an imperative question as education is at a cross roads. Education and teachers, especially have been put under much scrutiny based on the measure of student success as defined by test scores and the Common Core Learning Standards. At the same time, the power of technology and education is blooming with tools and platforms to leverage student success for ALL students and the field of education is filled with promise and possibility.

In 100 words or less, my response was:

Personalized learning experiences for teachers and students continues in the near future for education. Helping all students succeed and reach excellence is our mission. What we define as success and excellence continues to evolve so that our students are critical thinkers, problem solvers, collaborators, and active learners. As schools are rethinking the idea of space and the learning landscape of education, the physical space of schools will take on new shapes and forms. Technology and digital literacy is embedded throughout blended learning experiences to help students and teachers work smarter.

I was among 100 educational influencers to be included in this article and I want to share with you all the amazing insight from colleagues who were part of this report. Common responses included digital technology, students as creators, teachers as facilitators, problem based learning, personalized learning, choice, creativity, and collaboration.

Check out the entire collection of responses here.

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Reflections & Takeaways from #ISTE17

How do you envision technology in your classroom?

How do you utilize technology with your students to promote deeper learning, critical thinking, and creativity?

How do you see technology enhancing your teaching goals?

Technology is transformative. It is more than an instructional tool. Teachers need to decide for themselves the technology tools they should use for instruction to benefit student learning. Today is about understanding the possibilities and gaining more knowledge for teachers to embed technology more fluidly into their daily classroom practices and curriculum.

Where better to help answer these questions, learn from edtech leaders, and be inspired to integrate technology in meaningful and creative ways to support our students as learners and digital citizens than the International Society for Technology Education Conference (#ISTE17).

This year, #ISTE17 was held in San Antonio, Texas with 18,000 attendees and more than 5,000 edtech companies, start ups, and industry leaders (Google, Microsoft, Apple). The conference was jam packed for five days of workshops, panels, key notes, playgrounds, poster sessions, and exhibitors.

Here are five key ideas, themes, and takeaways I found dominating the event:

  1. It’s not about the tech, it’s about meaningful and purposeful teaching and thinking. Author and Edtech leader Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) tweeted, “Tools don’t teach. If you’re looking for a magic bullet look in the mirror.” Students learn best by doing. Many of the tech trends throughout the conference highlighted games, play, and hands on learning. Technology integration must have a clear purpose, tap into standards, have clear goals for the role of technology in enhancing the teaching goals, and be adaptable to meet different learning abilities, subject areas, and grade levels. Technology Integration should have the following components: students are actively engaged in using technology as a tool, students should use technology tools to collaborate with others, students should use technology tools constructively to build rather than simply receive information. Technology should be authentic (to solve real world problems meaningful to them rather than artificial assignments). Lastly, students should use technology tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results rather than simply completing assignments without reflection.
  2. ISTE unveils the new Standards for Educators (and Students). After ten years, ISTE has updated their standards to focus on next generation teaching and learning.  The ISTE Standards for Educators are your road map to helping become empowered learners. These standards deepen practice, promote collaboration with peers, challenge us to rethink traditional approaches and prepare students to drive their own learning. The ISTE standards coincide with Common Core Learning Standards to maximize student success.ISTE Standards for Educators

3. Maker Everything. Makerspace is here to stay and it is only getting bigger. Makerspace is not just tinkering but teachers are using it as a way for students to deepen their understanding of a concept, lesson, and idea. Makerspace does not have to be a stand alone club or activity, many educators shared their integration of maker space across the curriculum.Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 3.48.08 PM

One of the coolest Makerspace ideas I saw at a poster session was shared by Heather Lister and Michelle Griffith of Brannen Elementary in Brazosport ISD. Their poster session was jam packed with maker space ideas, suggested supplies, challenge cards, and project examples. Heather shared a World War II Map of Allied and Axis Powers that could light up with copper sticker tape and LED circuit stickers.

4, Next Generation Learning NOT 21st Century Learning. Let’s eliminate the saying 21st Century Learning. What does that mean, anyway? It is 2017 and we are almost 20 years into the 21st Century. Here are 8 habits of Next Generation Teachers as defined by Andrew Churches. How would you rate yourself?

Adapting the curriculum and the requirements to teach to the curriculum in imaginative ways.

Being visionary and look ideas and envisage how they would use these in their class.

Collaborating to enhance and captivate our learners. We, too, must be collaborators; sharing, contributing, adapting and inventing.

Taking risks, having a vision of what you want and what the technology can achieve, identify the goals and facilitate the learning. Use the strengths of the digital natives to understand and navigate new products, have them teach each other.

Learning and continue to absorb experiences and knowledge to stay current.

Communicating and fluent in tools and technologies that enable communication and collaboration.

Modeling behavior that we expect from our students.

Leading is crucial to the success or failure of any project.

5. Sketchnote It & BookSnap It, Blog It, Podcast It, Vlog It. Because we live in a visually rich digital culture there are so many different ways to share, reflect, and show our understanding and learning. People are sharing through Twitter, Instagram, Podcasts, Blogs, and Videocasts. Sketchnoting and BookSnaps are additional ways to help present learning and thinking. Sylvia Duckworth shared a Sketchnotes for Educators Workshop at a playground session I attended and Tara M. Martin, Booksnaps founder, presented an Ignite Session on Booksnaps for learning. Sketchnoting is a great tool that I have shared with my students to showcase their learning and understanding. In the new school year, I will offer Booksnaps as an option for students to share their reading and thinking about a text. The booksnap below was created by Tara M. Martin.

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Legends of Learning #ISTE17 Rally for Educators

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The following is the speech I presented to the attendees of edgames startup Legends of Learning rally for educators at ISTE.

Thank you to Legends of Learning for hosting the ISTE Rally for Educators and their mission to help teachers make classrooms fun and productive learning environments through research driven curriculum-based games. I am honored to speak with you tonight and to be included among amazing educators, Jahana Hayes and Dallas Dance, and with all of you here at this rally. Tonight is about celebrating teachers and inspiring heroes in all of us.

Too many of our students question what is the purpose of school today? Ask why do I have learn this and how is this going to help me after school and beyond? In a time when students can jump on the internet and Google answers to the questions they have, we, as teachers, need to show young people the relevancy of school and inspire students to help make the world a better place. You are the educational heroes, the teachers who inspire our students to love learning in our content areas, share our passions for science, math, English, history, art, music, technology, and more. And it is not only about disseminating information. Teachers must build relationships with students,  instill compassion and kindness all in a matter of 40 minute periods each day.

If we look closer into our students’ lives, we can learn so much more that can inform our teaching and methods. According to Nielsen, the average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spends 6.3 hours a week playing video games. Now, the Center for Public Education reports that, “students receive 1,000 hours of instructional time per year, depending on the grade level.”  That calculates to 3.3 hours of instructional time a week for ONE subject.The math is obvious, our students are getting twice as much game time as they are learning time. Most of the learning time that students are receiving is traditional in the sense that teachers are teaching at students. Students are the receivers of information whereas in a game, a player is immersed in the game world using problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and quick thinking to win the game and level up.

So, what if we harness our students’ strengths as gamers and game players to help teach our content area and tap into the elements of gamification to help develop problem solvers, readers, and critical thinkers? This can be an Epic Win for both teachers and students.  

Four years ago I was introduced to gamification as a classroom methodology while attending a local Edcamp. I admit that I am a Scrabble nerd, enjoy Jeopardy from time to time. I cannot resist a game of Pac Man and I love playing Dance Revolution with my daughter. Video gaming was not my strength or passion years prior. But the heart of gaming, the theory of gaming elements, and my interests are piqued.  

Gamification is an approach to learning that connects meaningful gaming with content objectives to re-engage students and boost learning.  Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and literacy instruction into a game. It requires creativity, collaboration, and play. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring in some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, you can bring in elements of gamification to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into the Common Core and meet ISTE Standards.

When my students are playing video games, they are using many skills – facts and information are tools to solve problems in context. Failure is a source of feedback and learning, collaboration is necessary, and learning and assessment are tightly integrated.  Gamification is not worksheets for points. Effective games are customized to different learners and students are encouraged to take risks and seek alternative solutions. In classrooms today, it’s not only about learning content material, students must experience and build the necessary skills to be creators, innovators, and problem solvers in order to develop critical thinking and improve academic achievement.

In my own classroom, gamification has helped me to engage many of my students, build collaboration and teamwork, and boost their literacy skills.  All year long, my students must uncover the mysteries and powers in the Books we read. Students might earn badges for completing different tasks or collect points during an adventure quest to show their learning and thinking about a text. The goal is for students to LOOK CLOSER and CRITICALLY at their world and the information that we are bombarded with visually and in print. There are puzzles, quests, and challenges with each unit. Students must unlock the secrets hidden in text and go on scavenger hunts and Amazing Races to show their understanding and knowledge. There are side quests to differentiate learning, boss battles, badges, and mysteries that help unlock the legends, themes, and pertinent information.  The game is always evolving in my class with treasure, experience points (XP), and gold points to be amassed. 10,000 experience points offers “Enhanced Vision,” a power and privilege that allows students who have leveled up to 10,000 XP or more to preview the final exam before the actual exam. In the past two years a dozen students have achieved this feat and their names top our leaderboard as reminders to new players that this win is achievable.

Ava, a student in my classroom this past school year told me that gaming in our 8th grade English class was a fun learning alternative which has made her a stronger English student. She went on to tell me striving for game points throughout the school year strengthened her work ethic and improved her writing and reading skills, which overall improved her grade. As a teacher, gamification has allowed me to coach students to be successful readers, writers, and critical thinkers. My students learn by doing, collaboration, and quest based adventures. Gamification fits across all content areas, not my classroom alone.

If we are going to energize our students, we need to embrace technology with teaching methods that inspire and encourage our students to be motivated to learn, collaborate, and face obstacles in a positive way. Approaching learning as a quest or a mission can inspire adventure, collaboration, and results in a better learning experience and learning environment. This is because gamification and game based learning

  • Captures (and retains) learners’ attention.
  • Challenges them.
  • Engages and entertains them.
  • Teaches them.

Let’s think of Mario, Princess Zelda, and Monopoly as mentor texts to help us, as teachers and educators,  design interactive lessons that immerse students in meaningful learning experiences.

Teachers are game designers who build experiences that allows students to foster meaningful teamwork, take ownership of their learning, and persevere when faced with obstacles. Epic Wins, that is what we want for ALL of our students. Success in school as well as outside of school. By meeting students where they are at, tapping into their gaming strengths and skill sets we can enhance the schooling experience across all content areas and promote Epic Wins for learning and life.

About Legends of Learning

Legends of Learning helps educators make their classrooms fun, engaging, and productive learning environments through research-driven, curriculum-based games. Legends of Learning uses ongoing original research to create an edgame platform filled with an epic range of lessons for stronger subject mastery and classroom engagement. All games are based on state curriculum standards. Don your masks with Legends of Learning.

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Get Your Game On: Boost Content Area Learning with Gamification Guest Blog Post for Project ReimaginED – ISTE

The following post was written and published for ISTE Project ReimaginED.

Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the content area classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring in some aspect of gaming into their class or utilize a game platform across the curriculum, they can bring in elements of gamification to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and attain ISTE Standards.

I first gamified my middle school English class last year and I have continued this quest for a second consecutive year. The response from my students has been positive and enthusiastic. Participation has increased among my students and students are inclined to do additional work for the game. Within my classroom I have eliminated homework grades in lieu of game points and on a weekly basis I have students battle each other for powers and privileges. Privileges include asking the Gamemaster (aka, the teacher) if her/his answer to a question is correct on a test and getting an extension on an assignment. Students earn points by being positive and hardworking in class, correctly answering a question in class, or helping another student. At the same time, students can also lose points by disrupting the class or coming to class unprepared. I am currently using Class Craft, an awesome gaming platform that has allowed me to turn my classroom into a role playing adventure. My students sign a “Hero Pact” which articulates the rules and goals of the game and they have Avatars. As the Gamemaster, I am able to customize the rules to fit my students needs.

Good gamification promotes problem solving and collaboration and failure is an essential source of feedback and learning.  Gamification is not worksheets for points; facts and information are used as tools for learning and assessment. Effective games are customized to different learners and  students are encouraged to take risks and seek alternative solutions. In classrooms today, it’s not only about learning content material. Students must experience and build the necessary skills to be creators, innovators, and problem solvers in order to develop critical thinking and improve academic achievement.

Here are some ideas to promote transformative learning experiences with gamification.

Collaboration & Teamwork

The Beatles sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and I transfer this principle to my classroom with gamification. Learning is not an isolated task. When students work collaboratively, there is more ownership of the material and more opportunities to contribute in class.  In my classroom students are assigned a team. Each team comprises four or five students, depending on the class size. Students work both independently and cooperatively within our gaming structure to earn powers than unlock privileges. Because I teach English, the team names are based on genres, authors, and book titles from Young Adult Literature. For example, in one class,  team names are based on current fantasy based young adult literature—Potter, Eregon, Everlost, and Land of Nod—and in another class team names are based on contemporary YA dystopian texts—5th Wave, Divergent, Legend, Matrix, and Rook.  Teachers can have students pick their own team names for ownership in the game.

ISTE Standards for Students #2, Creativity and Innovation, states: “Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively … to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.” Working collaboratively helps students enhance their oral communication skills and meet the Common Core State Standards for Speaking and Listening (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1). Students meet this CCSS by working in cooperative groups and teams, and then participating in “conversations and collaborations with diverse partners.” Teamwork and collaboration requires students to listen to one another and broaden their roles as dominant speakers in the classroom, rather than a teacher presenting and students only listening. As teammates, students “work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.B) Working with student teams also requires teachers to model and practice how to work well with one another and resolve conflicts in positive ways addressing ISTE Standards for Teachers  1.d: “Model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments.”

Challenges & Quests

Design a quest or challenge that sparks learning and engagement. While my students are reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I have them complete a “Mockingbird Amazing Race” QR Code Quest. Each team of students is given a map with QR codes that takes them around the school to complete text based activities. Students use their mobile devices to read the QR Codes at the different stations and complete the challenges. I designed the Mockingbird Amazing Race for students to “apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and synthesize information” (ISTE Standards for Students #3, Research and Information Fluency) about the text and and standards.

World History teacher Michael Matera uses simulations as a teaching tool with his sixth grade students. He designed a China Silk Road Simulation to bring to life entrepreneurship, supply and demand, the power of negotiation, and the costs and benefits of technology for society. He describes all the ingredients and directions for the simulation on his blog. The goal of the simulation is to have a rich product diversity without conflict. Throughout the simulation, Matera stops to ask questions to the groups about their choices and their connections to the learning objectives.

Leveling Up

Some students are motivated by badges or points. In my classroom, points unlock powers. Powers are important features that represent privileges players earn as they progress in the game. Some powers are cooperative where others only benefit the individual player. With Class Craft, players must level up to earn Power Points so that they can unlock new powers. Once a power has been learned, they can use it for the rest of the game. Some individual powers have nothing to do with English but they are still fun. When my first ten students earned over 1,000 points, I brought in doughnuts for them to eat during class. Many of my students are working towards the power that gives them access to their notes during a test.  The key is that leveling up, badges, and points track mastery.  Students can even contribute to how they earn the points and suggest powers or privileges.  Gamification facilitates more responsibility on the part of the student to take charge of their learning.

Wheel of Destiny

Want to inject a bit of a lottery system or the selection process from the reaping in The Hunger Games, but with less deadly consequences? Utilize a Wheel of Destiny or Random Name Generator to select students to complete a mission or answer a question. Students will be sitting on the edge of their chairs, but the spontaneous, random events/selection gets everyone involved. Good games are not predictable. And as with all games so too in your classroom: predictable can quickly become all too boring. Keep students on their toes and engaged in the game with random selection and events.

Boss Battles

Transform assessments with Boss Battles. A “boss” in gaming is a villain who the hero must face and defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level.  The boss is the final challenge a player faces and utilizes his or her skills and abilities to defeat the boss. Boss Battles can be used as reviews or as a test. Check out how Mallory Kesson of Gamindex uses Boss Battles in her classroom by posting multiple choice questions on the SMARTBoard and giving students 30 seconds to select the correct answer. If the student answers incorrectly, the boss will attack. If a teammate has the correct answer, a student can dodge the attack, but if you miss, the entire team takes damage and loses points. When Boss Battles ask higher order thinking questions, students are “using critical thinking skills to plan and solve problems, and make informed decisions,”thus meeting ISTE Standard for Students #4, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making.

Teacher as Gamester

Gamification can be lots of fun for students and teachers alike. At the same time, gamification can help students build skills and confidence. In gamifying one’s class, the learning goals and objectives should be the guide. Think about how you will assess your students and help them meet the learning targets. Gamification privileges and powers have replaced extra credit in my classroom. As a reminder, homework in my class is not graded, but students earn Class Craft points. All tests, quizzes, and assessments that measure learning goals are uploaded onto Class Craft for additional points. Students are not penalized grade-wise if their work is late because they are graded based on the standards; however, in the game they deal with the damage of that lateness and can fall in battle. As the Gamemaster, one must be consistent and fair, adjust settings for different groups of students, and create flexible learning goals to meet the needs of all students. Effective Gamemasters “model and apply the ISTE Standards for Students as they design, implement, and assess learning experiences to engage students and improve learning.”

If you are considering implementing gamification into your classroom, check out Class Craft or read Michael Matera’s book, Explore Like a PIRATE: Gamification and Game-Inspired Course Design to Engage, Enrich and Elevate Your Learners. As the Gamemaster, you have the ability to transform your classroom with games, quests, and adventures that can inspire and empower student learners.

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